The Revolutionary Spirit and the Human Future

Populism, the pandemic, and resurgent socialism have recently brought Americans to ask revolutionary questions, reconsidering the nation’s founding narrative and its very identity, past and future.  America, of course, was birthed in revolution. How should our country’s revolutionary origin inform our self-understanding in this moment that portends radical change? What distinguishes the American revolution from other great historical revolutions? What are the origins and the consequences of the revolutionary spirit? Inspired by these questions, the Tocqueville Program, in this series, will promote reflection on the history, psychology, and metaphysics of revolution.

2021 Lecturers

September 13, 2021: Gary Saul Morson

“The Pure Violence of Revolutionism”

Gary Saul Morson is the Lawrence P. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities, and Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern University. The author or editor of 20 books on Russian writers, the nature of time, the role of quotations in culture and other topics, Dr. Morson won best book awards from the American Comparative Literature Association and the American Association of Professors of Slavic and East European Languages. His publications include Prosaics and Other Provocations: Empathy, Open Time, and the Novel; Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time; and The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel. For many years his course on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky was the largest course at Northwestern University and the largest on Russian literature in North America. Prior to his time at Northwestern, Dr. Morson was Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. Morson holds a B.A. in Russian and Ph.D. in Russian Literature from Yale University. He also spent a year at Oxford University on a Henry Fellowship, where he befriended fellow student Bill Clinton.

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November 3, 2021: Sofa Gradin

“‘Be the Change You Want to See in the World’: Prefigurative Politics and Social Transformation”

Sofa Saio Gradin teaches Politics and International Relations at King’s College London, UK, and is the co-author of Prefigurative Politics: Building Tomorrow Today. Sofa’s research focuses on egalitarian forms of organizing, whether in global trade or in local community groups. As well as an academic, Sofa is a community organizer, a youth worker, and a public speaker – check out their TEDx talk, “How to Abandon Capitalism”. For many years Sofa worked as a song-writing tutor in a music youth center, which nurtured an interest in transformative and somatic pedagogies. Sofa completed a Master’s degree in International Development at the University of Bristol, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the University of the West of England.

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December 3, 2021: Brad Birzer

“Irrational Forces and the Power of Ideology: Christopher Dawson on the Modern Age”

Bradley J. Birzer holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and is Professor of History at Hillsdale College in Michigan. In 2010, he co-founded The Imaginative Conservative. He also writes for Law and Liberty, Action Institute, Ignatius Insight and Catholic World Report. He earned his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. from Indiana University. He had the great privilege of studying with such excellent scholars as R. David Edmund, Bernard Sheehan, Russ Hanson, Anne Butler, Walter Nugent, Greg Dowd and Marvin O’Connell. For the 2014-15 school year, Birzer had the honor of being the “Scholar in Residence” and “Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy” at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He has authored biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Christopher Dawson, Andrew Jackson and Neil Peart. Currently, he is writing an intellectual biography of Robert Nisbet and a group biography of the Inklings. His latest book is “Beyond Tenebrae: Christian Humanism in the Twilight of the West.”

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